Mixed Day for Science at the State Board of Education

Evolution wins a victory, but creationists still a foot in the door

Chair Don McLeroy and other creationists on the SBOE suffered partial defeats today
Chair Don McLeroy and other creationists on the SBOE suffered partial defeats today (photo by Jana Birchum)

I was out chasing an unrelated story all day, and unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?) had to miss the inanity of the State Board of Education's final vote on science curriculum standards for Texas' public schoolchildren. However, the anti-religious-right and pro-science group Texas Freedom Network was there liveblogging it. They report that:

• The attempt to re-insert a requirement that instructors teach the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution failed. A panel of scientists and educators had recommended removing that language, in part because fundamentalist religious groups have seized on it in recent years to push creationism into classrooms.
• A compromise amendment would require examination of "all sides" of scientific explanations.
• Board Chair Don McLeroy's previously approved amendment to analyze the "sufficiency or insufficiency" of the fossil record to prove common descent was deleted in the final reading, which TFN called a "very important victory" for science.
• Fundamentalist Cynthia Dunbar offered an amendment to "analyze and evaluate the sufficiency of scientific explanations concerning any data on sudden appearance and stasis and the sequential groups in the fossil record." After "the sufficiency of" was deleted, it passed.

Post-meeting statement from TFN's Kathy Miller:

The word "weaknesses" no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks.

We appreciate that the politicians on the board seek compromise, but don't agree that compromises can be made on established mainstream science or on honest education policy.

What's truly unfortunate is that we now have to revisit this entire debate in two years when new science textbooks are adopted. Perhaps the Texas legislature can do something to prevent that.

We'll have our own reporting in next week's print edition.

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